Insights For The Interns Among Us

“To intern, or not to intern, that is the question.” Apprehensive communication design students and recent grads are stepping into my office in increased numbers, concerned about their futures and first steps in their careers. Many ask the question, “Is an internship really necessary?”
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dmittedly, an internship is a strange concept, which seems to be mostly an American phenomenon, better known as ‘work experience’ across the Atlantic in England, where it usually lasts just a couple of weeks, not a semester. But as many of us know, internships can open doors, thus my advice is to play big and shoot for the moon.If you’re looking for an internship, do your utmost to get your foot in the door at any companies that interest you. Be sure to research and think out the box, and avoid the obvious large companies, where you’ll have some serious competition (and likely a very menial job). In these ever changing days and a rocky economy to say the least, internships may be the airtight way of the future, the best way to launch design careers, so embrace them don’t avoid them.

10 Steps Toward Landing a Dream Internship:

1. Don’t wait for internship opportunities to find you.

If you rely on traditional job postings and advertised positions, you’re just going to be another applicant in a long line of resume submissions, and your odds will be closely matched to that of buying a lottery ticket! Instead, be proactive and contact companies and specific people that interest you.

2. Smart research.

Create a list of the top tier companies that you’d love to intern for. Find contacts, and that doesn’t mean; ‘To whom it may concern’. You’re laziness will shine in such cases and you can count on not hearing back with such an impersonal approach.

3. Go against technology!

It may sounds antiquated, but instead of letting your emailed PDF resume and samples fall swift victim to the dreaded delete button, print a physical resume, cover letter and sample page on decent bond white paper. Then drop them in something called an envelope (remember those!?), and then mail it. I’ve heard from a good number of Creative Directors that are actually happy to receive a physical mailing in this day and age. They like having something tangible in their hands for a change. It reminds them of life a few years back, when the world was a simpler place.

4. Details!

If you do the snail mail thing, be sure your presentation and attention to detail is flawless. Have a friend check for typos. For the company hiring you, the way you present yourself is a good indication of the way you will present work to clients.

5. Follow Up.

Having used the snail mail approach, you now have a reason to step back into the present age of technology and follow up with an email and direct them to your online portfolio (be it your Behance Network portfolio with a “/frame” after it to make it clean, or your own website).

6. Speak up.

When you land an interview, open your mouth as well as your portfolio. Express enthusiasm and intelligent alongside your talent. Companies want to hire team players not soloists.

7. Don’t settle.

Everyone wants something for nothing, especially if you’re a design superstar, so don’t ever feel backed into a corner. If an offer falls on your lap swiftly, buy some time with a sincere thank you and let them know you’ll be back in touch in a day or two with an answer. You may even want to use the “I have other offers to consider,” approach, to further increase your value. It’s your career, so don’t settle so quickly.

8. Toot their horn.

If you’re contacting you’re top choice branding companies or ad houses, be sure to educate yourself and praise (or thoughtfully critique) their recent projects. A personal touch demonstrating you know your stuff and their stuff can go a long way.

9. Out the blue it!

Given you’ve done your research, its totally fine to just contact companies out of the blue. Every company could use great interns (if not now, sometime soon), so position yourself to be next in line.

10. Contacts, contacts, contacts.

You don’t ask you don’t get! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the sentence; “I know someone at the company, should I contact them?” Yes, of course you should, unless they’re telepathic. Don’t overlook or avoid the obvious.

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